In the Big League Table of Three-Word Phrases to Flare the Nostrils and Set Blood Rushing to the Temples, ‘mid-size Chevrolet estate’ ranks somewhere between ‘lawn bowls endurathon’ and ‘relentless nasal hair’.
But it’s really not bad, the Cruze Station Wagon – by a distance, the best of the Korean-built Chevys. This shouldn’t be such a surprise: the Cruze shares much of its DNA with the Vauxhall Astra, making the Cruze estate first cousin to the big ’n’ practical Astra Sports Tourer.
If you want vim and pizzazz from your reasonably priced estate, well, maybe you shouldn’t be in the market for a reasonably priced estate (or at least prepared to shell out another £10,000 on a BMW 3-Series Touring). The Cruze trades on dogged practicality. Its boot boasts more hooks and compartments than an angler’s tackle-box, and its rear seats fold dead flat to reveal a monstrous, wide-aperture load area: a full 1,500 litres of matter-swallowing cavernity.
You can have your Cruze estate with a 1.6- or 1.8-litre petrol, or a 1.7-litre diesel. You’ll want the diesel, the same 128bhp unit we’ve enjoyed in the Astra appearing for the first time in a Chevrolet. Though it sounds station wagon a little chuggy from the outside, the diesel proves pleasantly smooth on the move, capable of a real-world 50mpg, yet powerful enough to deal with the most severe epidemics of childhood obesity.
To drive? The Cruze is fine. Not exciting, but in no way embarrassing. Steers true, stops well, doesn’t sink like an undercooked flan when you point it at a corner. A Focus estate would be more fun, but it’ll cost you a grand or so more to reach an equivalent level of power and equipment.
The Cruze’s biggest problem is its total lack of badge cachet. Chevrolet doesn’t seem to be able to draw a cohesive link between its current budget range and its stellar catalogue of post-war American Chevy cool (if you don’t want a Fifties Bel Air, you’re officially dead inside) or, indeed, the current Camaro and Corvette. But if you need big and practical and you can handle living in a fashion vacuum, the Cruze estate deserves a spot on your ‘maybe’ list.
1686cc, 4cyl, FWD, 128bhp, 221lb ft, 62.7mpg, 119g/km CO2, 0–62 in 10.4secs, 124mph, 1475kg
Not cool, not fun, but entirely worthy. Economical, roomy and well-priced, but we’d probably look at a Skoda Octavia first...